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Lafarge gravel pit tables special use request to expand operations in Blackberry Township for now

Request will come before the Kane County Development Committee on Sept. 17


ELBURN – Following a vote by the Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals that didn't lead to a recommendation for Lafarge’s special use permit, the sand and gravel mining company asked that the matter be tabled for another month.

Lafarge Aggregates Illinois, Inc.’s request for a special use permit to allow for an expansion of its current sand and gravel mining operation at Rowe Road and Route 47 in Blackberry Township onto 148 acres of farmland will now be considered by the Kane County Development Committee at its Sept. 17 meeting. This in turn pushes consideration of the petition by the full County Board to Oct. 8.

Although the Zoning Board on Aug. 13 voted 4:1 to approve the special use request, county officials explained that five votes were required for a recommendation.

Tracy Aris of St. Charles, Mary Lake of Burlington, Marguerite Millen of Aurora and James Plonzynski of Geneva voted in favor of the measure; Marc Falk of Plato cast the only ‘no’ vote. Christopher Barry and Burt Natkins were not present at the meeting.

During the zoning board’s public hearing on Aug. 13, consultant Chris Aiston said that the mining operation at 1S194 Route 47 has been in existence for approximately 50 years, with Lafarge taking over the operation in the 2005/2006 timeframe.

Aiston said that since 1970, there have been a number of special use permit requests to expand the operation and they have never been denied. According to county documents, the operation was expanded in 1970, again in 1990 and yet again in 2003. This current request for expansion would take place on 148.5 acres of land currently zoned agricultural to the north and the east of the existing operation. The property includes a farmstead and fields in row crops of corn and beans, currently in production.

Lafarge’s attorney Jim Cooke of St. Charles said that, based on the county’s own land use plan, his client’s sand and gravel extraction operation “is a useful and appropriate use for this property.” For zoning purposes, mining is allowed in ag zoning with an approved special use permit.

He added that Lafarge has addressed all of the county’s concerns, as well as dealing with all of the significant issues that the neighbors within the immediate area had raised.

Lafarge’s Land Manager John Fay told the zoning board that Lafarge uses sweeping and watering for dust control on-site,

He estimated that the sand and gravel extraction should be completed in about 10 years, and said there are bonds set aside for the restoration and reclamation of the site, including a large lake, upon its completion.

“Lafarge takes great pride in being a good neighbor,” he said.

However, several neighbors who showed up to speak at the public hearing did not agree with that assessment.

Brian Flinn said that his mother’s house, where she moved 53 years ago and is the home where he grew up, will be the most affected by Lafarge’s expansion.

The home, at 43W997 Rowe Road, would be surrounded on three sides with the expansion of the mine, and turn her property into a “dirt canyon,” said Flynn.

“We have watched over the 53 years the gravel mining operation pass through different owners and acquire more and more land moving to the north and west, toward our property to become the mega strip mine it is today,” he said.

According to Flynn, there is so much noise, dust and light pollution that they can’t sit outside any more. More importantly, he added, within the past four years, it has affected their well water, so that they no longer drink the water.

Scott Luczynski, who lives across Rowe Road from the Flinn’s, said there is beeping and grinding from the gravel pit at all hours of the night. The hours of operation are supposed to be six days a week, from Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., and until 7 p.m. between April 1 and November 1.

When Cooke said that Lafarge has not had any complaints about the hours of operations in the last five years, a number of people said they did not know who they could call.

Mark VanKirkoff, director of the Development and Community Services Department, said that residents should contact him at 630-232-3451 with the date and time if there are hours of operations violations and Kane County can pull their permit for those violations.

Windenoaks resident Amanda Morfen, who moved into the area a year ago, said that no one in her neighborhood was notified of this possible expansion.

“We have huge concerns about our health, the air quality, the noise and our well water,” she said. “There are a lot of young families in this neighborhood.”

Nancy Schmaitman, who has lived on Timbercrest Road for the past 41 years, said that although she understands the gravel pit operation has asked for special use zoning several times since the 1970’s, she has never heard of special use zoning requested for an area that butts up against a subdivision.

She said there are 30 or 40 people who live in the Timbercrest Subdivision and 100 to 200 people who live in the Windenoaks Subdivision who will be affected by this expansion.

She said she can’t open her windows in the spring or there’s a layer of dirt over everything. In addition, she said she and her neighbors are worried that the expansion will affect their wells and cause them to go dry.

Kane County Board member Drew Frasz said his recommendation is to try to work with Lafarge on some of their concerns. He said they have already made a few concessions, such as extending the size of the setbacks.

Frasz, who has been in the excavating business for 41 years, said that Lafarge is a first-class operation as far as dust control is concerned, and explained that not all of the dust in such an operation can be controlled.

He did say that the neighbors are right about Lafarge’s violations of its hours of operation, and he continues to encourage Lafarge to work with the Flinns and the Luczynskis, as they will be the most affected.

He offered to speak with the residents and said he would be willing to meet with them as a group to help them come up with ways to work with Lafarge.

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